Here’s Why Career Switchers Have A Huge Advantage In This Job Market

Business People Climbing Ladders

Business People Climbing Ladders to Reach the Top


In just three short months, the market has completely transformed and there are three realities job seekers need to know to succeed going forward.

Let’s get the unfortunate news out of the way first. Whether you want to label it a possible depression, temporary freeze or V-shaped recession, our economy is experiencing a major transformation, and job seekers will continue to be impacted for the extended future.

Most professionals dislike a job search even when they’re voluntarily pursuing a career change, so having it thrust upon you makes it that much worse. But based on unemployment numbers, 26 million people are experiencing this now, and many others are aware the clock is ticking.

Even if scientists discover a cure for COVID-19 tomorrow, the “new normal” has already been established. Here’s what we can expect in terms of the job search:

  • Everyone’s looking. If you’ve been laid off or furloughed, there are no guarantees if or when you’ll be called back to the job. Even if re-employed, it may part-time , a different position or at lower pay with fewer benefits. Customers may be slow to return and many professionals don’t have the luxury of waiting around and are pursuing other opportunities.
  • Companies are running lean. Organizations are cutting back, reducing budgets, and going without. As they learn to increase efficiency, they realize they can function effectively with less, which means they won’t rehire as many people as they had planned to before the pandemic.
  • Virtual is winning. Companies have learned that many roles can be done remotely, and teams no longer need to reside in one place to be successful. This means they can search for candidates across a larger geography, further increasing job search competition.
  • Compensation is waning. It’s an employer’s job market now, and organizations realize they can find a candidate who will work for less, even if you’re a rock star and worth the extra pay. Yes, it may be short-sighted, but the odds are in their favor.

So, the first major reality is:

Competition for job seekers has become fierce and will remain high even after the pandemic has resolved. If you don’t have a strategy to stand out, you’re sunk.

Making a career switch — defined as a change in industry, function or both — in any economy with our current over-reliance on online platforms and untrained hiring managers is tough. If you’re a successful switcher, you know that. If you’re an unsuccessful one, you also know it.

But, it may not be your fault, which brings me to point two:

The current online hiring system isn’t set up for selection. It’s set up for elimination.

  • Welcome to the online universe. With Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) being used by over 98% of Fortune 500 companies receiving on average 250 resumes per posting, online platforms like Zip Recruiter offering to share 16 million resumes with employers, and big boards like boasting 200 million monthly job seekers, it’s no wonder most online applications end up in the internet ozone. Seriously, I have a pretty solid LinkedIn profile, but even I wouldn’t hedge my bets against 200 million other job seekers, especially if I was a potential switcher. And the only way an employer can eventually find the one person for the open role is to eliminate the 199,999,999 million other job seekers. No one has time for this. Job seekers are being lured into a system that needs serious improvement (and employers fall for it, too), only to get hopes up, then crushed.
  • Next stop, inadequate hiring practices. The way ATS eliminate job seekers is by looking for key word matches, proper resume formatting (completely irrelevant) and requirements such as degrees, certifications and salary expectations. Seventy-five percent of applications get spit out before they even reach human eyes, and many job requisitions are written more for marketing purposes than to actually align with the performance measures of the role. For example, listing a “Bachelor’s Degree” as a cost to entry usually has no purpose other than being a simple way to eliminate a large number of applicants (many of whom are likely highly qualified otherwise).
  • Final stop, bias and emotions. Very few hiring managers are trained to hire, which is unfortunate, but justified by companies in that their day job is not hiring people and they do it only a few times per year. If practice (and training) make perfect, then hiring managers are anything but. Also, decisions that humans make go through the amygdala —the emotional center in the brain — which impacts choices. So more often than not, hirers mistakenly use the data to support their gut choice based on confirmation bias (e.g., focusing on information that supports your pre-existing beliefs), while assuming they’re being objective. So yes, as a candidate you’ll be dealing with the whims of unconscious bias and mood swings. And, while advocates of ATS promote them as a fairer process due to the technology replacing human bias, who do you think programs the requirements into these systems? Yes, those same biased humans. The beauty of skipping the system and getting a referral, is that you get to use that bias to your advantage. And this is why brand is so important. But we’re getting to that.

So, the way the majority of job seekers search for work (online) is prohibitive. And strangely, even though companies invest a great deal of money into recruiting technology, research shows:

  • 40% of hires come from the referral pool, which is only 7% of applicants.
  • referrals have a 50% chance of getting an interview and 20% chance of landing the job whereas for non-referrals that drops to a 3% chance of an interview and 1.2% chance of getting hired.
  • over 65% of job seekers recommended by a current employee were hired. That number increased to 91% if the referral originated from a director-level employee or above.

So, there is certainly a mismatch and this is crucial to know in a highly competitive job market where you want every advantage, which brings me to the final point:

Switchers have an advantage in the current market because they already know they need to bypass the online path and create their own strategy to get in front of decision-makers.

Professionals who have made a successful career switch have been prohibited from using the traditional job search tools because they easily get eliminated in the early rounds for not fitting “traditional” criteria programmed into the ATS. Here’s what they do instead:

  • They’re proactive vs. reactive. Switchers have learned to use a self-directed process, redirecting their energy away from the seductive lure of the throwing spaghetti at the online abyss to see what sticks, and instead focusing on a clear target or Plan A. They take the time to reinvent their career stories to align with changing market needs, engaging transferable skills from all areas of their past experiences to remain agile to meet current demands.
  • They build a relevant brand. Switchers know that brands are not just for products, but rather are an important career tool to show their target audience how they can solve their company’s greatest pain points. They weave this brand value proposition through everything from their resume and online profiles to their personal networking introduction and interview responses to consistently and visibly build trust.
  • They cultivate ambassadors. Switchers recognize the power of relationships. They go beyond building a Rolodex, ensuring their network understands the value they bring to the marketplace to gain access to valuable career information and those opportunities that will never be advertised to the general public (e.g., the hidden job market).
  • They drive the process. Switchers recognize that there isn’t an “easy” path to success and that the energy and creativity invested into the job search is usually equivalent to the types of opportunities they can expect to find. The most interesting, lucrative and in-demand roles are usually scooped up long before hitting the big job boards.

And the good news is that you can use this process, too, even if you’re not a Switcher. In fact, in this transformed job market, you can’t afford not to use this strategy to find employment if you want to be competitive.

Fair or unfair, the internet is oversaturated with candidates, and even companies who engage these online hiring strategies have learned that the best hires come from trusted resources inside the company or from people they already know. This is why they pay $1000, $5,000 and up to $25,000 in some cases per hire through Employee Referral Programs.

In normal economic times, the Switcher strategy enables you to be the most competitive candidate, opens the door to unadvertised opportunities, and helps you to create new roles suited to your exact interests and abilities. In today’s economy, the Switcher strategy helps you to land the job. Period.

If you want job security today and throughout your professional career, learn how to conduct your job search like a career Switcher. While at some point, hiring software and recruiting technology might get “smarter” and more effective, if a company’s greatest assets are its people, than relationships and trust will always be a part of the decision-making. You may not like the game, but if you’re serious about landing a new role, especially in highly competitive times, learning how to play it is critical.

Switchers have learned long ago that forging your own path is much more effective and rewarding for your career than following the herd to wherever it leads, which if online, is often a black hole.

Happy hunting!

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